How to Stay Safe in the Furry Fandom
While this is primarily for use in the Furry Fandom it applies to everyone online, minor or not. This is just a guide to help people spot signs of abuse.
Please pass this on to people who you feel may be suffering from abuse. Feel free to repost as this is a community resource.
Most abuse happens from people closest to you, like your friends, your family or even your significant other. Common signs of abuse are:
What is abuse?
- They lie to you: A pattern of lies is a sign that the relationship is an abusive one. All healthy relationships rely on mutual trust.
- They “ghost” you or make it a point to not include you in activities: Ghosting in this context means that the person ignores you completely, sometimes for days on end. If you confront them and they become defensive and say it is your fault, ask yourself – why are they not owning up to it?
- They pressure you for gifts: like money or artwork.
- They praise you excessively but then turn around and then harshly criticize you either to your face or behind your back. This is how they control the friendship’s power dynamic.
- They do not respect your boundaries or time. They will often make you feel obligated to respond to them at all times, as soon as they message you. They will often say hurtful things if you do not respond right away, even if you have other things to do.
- They spend so much time with you that your guard may be down, some abusers will talk to their victims for 10 hours or longer so their guard is down and they may be able to take advantage of the situation – be it sexually or emotionally. This is commonly done through video chats if the person is far away.
Grooming is preparing another person to do something, mostly sexual, but can also come in other forms where the groomer can get certain advantages. While this term is mostly geared towards adults grooming minors, it can also happen between two adults.
Grooming – How can I tell if I am being groomed?
Grooming is done to get a person to do a desired outcome and can include:
The abuser asking for money
To get the victim to participate in harmful acts, such as eating disorders
Recognizing grooming for what it is can help you avoid being groomed yourself or help you support a friend survive a predator.
- Groomers will often first form a friendship with the person they have chosen. This is so they establish trust with a person. They normally choose people who they feel they can have power over, such as a fan or minor. There is often a power dynamic when it comes to grooming.
- Groomers will then see how isolated the victim is, as the more isolated the victim the more likely they will be able to control them. They will then try to further isolate the victim from friends and family. The predator may tell the intended victim that they feel an especially strong connection to them, or that they understand each other in a special way that no one else can get.
- Then the groomer will slowly start normalizing the abuse. They may send small images with slight sexual overtones to see how you react. They will keep ramping this up until you are more comfortable with the situation. They may also try to say they are "educating you" on sexual topics, particularly if you are young. Adults should NEVER talk to people younger than them about their sexual interests or "educate them" over the internet.
- Once the victim is doing what the predator wants, the predator will work to keep them under control through various means. These methods can include gas-lighting (telling the victim their feelings are crazy or unreasonable), destroying the victim’s self-esteem, or continuing the isolate the victim from their loved ones.
- Groomers may also use others outside of the situation or relationship to inflict further harm on the victim or convince them to stay with the abuser. Most often these people will not even realize they are being used to groom a subject, as they are convinced by the predator that they are not the bad guy.
NCMEC’s CyberTipline is the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children. The public and electronic service providers can make reports of suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child...
If a friend or loved one is the subject of grooming, it is important to keep open lines of communication with them. Help them talk through their issues and point out where the abuser may be overstepping, such as:
• Asking for access to monetary resources
• Spending too much time alone with the victim
• Pulling the victim away from loved ones
Remind your friend that you are there for them, no matter what, and encourage them to get away from the abuser. Remember that because of the manipulation in play, your friend may get mad at you for trying to take them away from the groomer. Be patient and prepared as you would with any abuse victim.
If you believe you are the subject of grooming, take steps to ensure your safety before removing yourself from the relationship. Abusers will often lash out against their victims when they try to leave, and even if the groomer isn’t violent, this can lead to devastating consequences. Just know it is never your fault.
Gaslighting – What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.
Some notable signs to tell if someone is gaslighting you:
- They tell blatant lies. – Abusers will often do this as they are setting you up to not question their lies. They will say things such as: "If you were paying attention…” , “We talked about this. Don’t you remember?” or “Why are you upset? I was only kidding.”
- They deny they ever said something, even if you have proof. They do this to make you question your reality, to make you feel as though you are misremembering. The more they do this the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.
- They use your passions and comforts as ammunition. They will attack things about you that you hold dear, things such as beliefs or things you enjoy.
- They wear you down over time. People who gaslight you will keep doing it until you no longer fight back, giving all of your power to them.
- Their actions do not match their words. They will often say one thing and do another, and if you point it out they will accuse you that they never did those things or never believed what they said originally.
- They will often throw in positive reinforcement. This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don't have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. They do this to make you believe that they are not so bad.
- They project things they have done onto you. If they have cheated they may accuse you of cheating. If you are constantly trying to defend yourself you will be too distracted to focus on their behavior.
- They align people against you.
- They tell you or others that you are crazy.
- They tell you everyone else is a liar.
CW: Extreme Gaslighting
This is very hard to watch and disturbing, as there is someone being horribly gaslighted in this, but it shows exactly what gaslighting is. Not all cases will be like this, as it is an extreme example, this is just to show you how gaslighting is like in real time. Click here if you wish to view it.
The signs of being a victim of gaslighting can include:
- Constant self-doubt or second-guessing
- Question whether you can do anything right
- Asking yourself “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day
- Feeling confused and/or that you are “going crazy”
- Question whether you are “good enough” for your partner
- Feel hopeless, unhappy or joyless
- Apologizing profusely to your partner
- Find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family
- Feel that something isn’t right in your relationship, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself
- Creating your own lies or mistruths to avoid the put downs and reality twists
- Find it difficult to make simple decisions
- Feel as though you have become a different person, where before you felt more confident, more fun-loving and relaxed
One of the quickest ways to leave an abusive relationship or friendship is to not confront your abuser and leave quietly. This may or may not work for you considering your situation and is normally the easiest for people who have mainly an online relationship. These types of people (abusers) will likely try to place the blame on you or gaslight you to make you feel as though everything is your fault. They do not take rejection well.
How do I get away from an abusive relationship or friendship?
If the relationship is more immediate, such as you are living with the person or they live close by it may also be wise to cut them out. If you need to leave an abusive household, try talking with friends or family so that you have people who will help you during this difficult time. Make it clear to friends and family that you will not be associating with the abuser anymore and let them know the situation. You may need therapy if the relationship was damaging to your feelings of self-worth. They will likely also have resources that may help you not fall into a similar situation.
It may be wise to change the passwords that this person may know or means of access to your home or work.
While abusive people are dangerous, one can take safety measures to help protect themselves, such as:
How can I stay safe from abusers?
Do not reveal your real name, address, or face unless absolutely necessary (which is nearly never) and you 100% trust this person.
If you are a minor, block anyone immediately if they show you pornographic images, never send them any back.
Unfollow/block people even if they make you feel bad. Tailoring your online experience is crucial to being active in a fandom that is mainly online. Curating your online space should not be looked down upon, your safety and mental well-being always comes first.
When a pattern of abuse emerges, leave, you do not owe them anything. If you are a minor trying to get away from an abusive household call Child Protective Services or the equivalent in your area. I would recommend also trying to stay with a relative or a friend.
When meeting anyone in person, it is much safer if:
--- You're in a public place
--- You're in a large group
--- There are other minors present that you know and trust
--- There are other adults around who you could talk to, including parents or guardians
Never go into "room parties" when you are a minor at a convention, especially if there is drinking involved. If you get caught there is a chance the convention head will kick you out.
Do not hug random strangers while in fursuit, make sure you have a handler at all times, especially if you are a minor.
Abusers also often prey on people younger than them. If you are a minor, know that forming relationships with people older than you can be dangerous. Older people inherently have more power in relationships when you are younger, and can easily abuse that power. Many abusers specifically seek out people much younger than them to abuse. While this is primarily seen in relationships know it can also be a problem with friendships as well, though this is less common. If you are questioning your relationship or friendship with someone else get a variety of people who you trust to give you a second opinion.
Furries will also single out prey by using private chats in apps such as telegram. Most often this comes in the form of furries singling others out in NSFW chats, where they may already be exposed to materials that would make grooming easier.
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